Throughout his life, Green Bay native Dan Van Rite hasn’t always taken the traditional path. As a boy, Van Rite wanted to be an accountant; once a bit older, he pursued an architecture degree. While in school, Van Rite, like so many other students, began working at a local restaurant first as a server and then as a cook; while working in the kitchen realized he had found his true calling and creative outlet. Van Rite committed to cooking professionally, leaving architecture school just shy of graduation and enrolling in the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon.
After graduating with high honors (1996), Van Rite cooked his way around the country – from working as a sous chef at a private ranch in Colorado to specializing in seafood in Florida, furthering his culinary repertoire and confidence. Throughout his travels, he embraced the responsibly raised lifestyle, cultivating relationships with farmers, fisherman, purveyors and growers that became the foundation of his cooking style. After four years, Van Rite was ready to return home, accepting the executive chef position at Hinterland (Green Bay). At the popular gastropub, Van Rite was given the freedom to stretch the menu, and he quickly caught the eye of consumers and media alike. He then spent time as a private chef in Nantucket before returning to Hinterland, this time to open their Milwaukee location. Over the next eight years, Van Rite continued to hone his culinary skills, and his efforts led to him being selected by the James Beard Foundation three times as a semifinalist in the Best Chef: Midwest category (2010 – 2012). Having met Dan Jacobs through industry events, the two became friends and soon launched plans for their modern American-Chinese restaurant, DanDan.
His passion for cooking respectfully and seasonally and his drive to continue to evolve has made Van Rite a chef who finds a balance between his creative outlet and the artisanal forces that keep him grounded. An avid traveler and outdoorsman, when not in the kitchen Van Rite can be found in his garden, or casting a line fly-fishing. He lives in the Bayview neighborhood of Milwaukee.
As a kid, Dan Jacobs wanted to be a cop; his brother, a robber. Thankfully neither took that route. Jacobs, a Chicago native who has lived in Milwaukee since 2011, is a chef who stays true to his Midwestern roots while incorporating the global culinary influence he has sought out all his life.
After taking some courses at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (now Le Cordon Bleu) Jacobs began working at the legendary Carlos’ restaurant, where he spent two years learning technique from the masterful Carlos Nieto. When not in the kitchen, Jacobs absorbed all he could reading some of the classic cookbooks by chef/authors including Trotter, Keller, Bayless, Dornenburg and more. Over the next decade and a half, Jacobs worked in several of Chicago’s best kitchens – TRU and North Pond as saucier, as roundsman at Aubriot, and working pastry at NAHA under Carrie Nahabedian. He then joined the Spring team under Shawn McClain, and when McClain next opened the vegetable-driven Green Zebra, he made Jacobs sous chef. From there, he worked at the four-star Pluton and sister restaurant Narra; in 2006 he accepted a position as chef de cuisine at Michael Altenberg’s Bistro Campagne, where he spent the next four years. At the bistro, Jacobs began working closely with area farmers, forging relationships and a commitment to support local and responsibly grown products, which is now tantamount to his everyday cooking philosophy. The late Altenberg, as well as McClain and Nahabedian became mentors and friends to the young chef.
In 2011, Jacobs decided to move north, and accepted a position as sous chef at Roots, where he quickly was elevated to executive chef. In fall 2012, Roots transitioned to Wolf Peach and under Jacobs’ lead, was named On Milwaukee’s “Best New Restaurant” and was selected one of the five best restaurants to open in 2013 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In early 2014, Jacobs accepted the executive chef position at Odd Duck, where he continued to garner both media and consumer attention. Late the following year, Jacobs left to collaborate with chef Dan Van Rite to open DanDan, where the two will explore modern American-Chinese cuisine.
Although he may not be walking the beat of an area cop, expect to see arresting and innovative food from this creative and grounded chef. Jacobs and his wife, artist Kate Riley, live in the Bayview neighborhood of Milwaukee.